A popular Norwood farmers market that chose homelessness over a forced move to an alternate location after 17 years in town has found a new home 2 miles down the road — in Westwood.
The new Westwood Farmers Market, which was invited to cross the town line by Westwood’s Board of Selectmen, will debut on Tuesday in the parking lot of the Council on Aging on Nahatan Street.
“I’m very thankful to Westwood for allowing us to come to their town,” said Shirley Robbins, who manages the market that formerly operated in downtown Norwood in the Apollo Function Facility’s Washington Street parking lot, until it was told it had to move last summer.
Also launching at the same time, ironically, is a new farmers market that replaces Robbins’s market — on Norwood’s bucolic Town Common. Local officials hope that will bring people together and boost downtown traffic for existing businesses.
“Norwood has much to offer,” said Kim Weineck, the new downtown manager. “Someone just needs to connect the dots to enhance what’s already here.’’
The musical chairs began last summer when Norwood’s Board of Selectmen voted 3-2 to move Robbins’s weekly market to the Town Common. Robbins and others had operated in the downtown area since 1994.
Robbins, of Westport’s Paradise Hill Farm, and other longtime vendors like Ed Silvia, a farmer with fields in Dighton and Somerset, said they didn’t want to move to the common, despite it being more centrally located. They said the common lacked parking and presented logistical problems for getting crates of food off 17-foot trucks and across the lawn to their stands.
Vendors were also upset that town officials made the decision without consulting them, while some officials, like Selectman Mike Lyons, at the time had characterized the market as a “glorified farm stand” that only benefited a handful of farmers while doing nothing to contribute to the town.
Lyons has said the decision had not come out of a vacuum, as selectmen had discussed the issue annually.
Robbins and other farmers, meanwhile, argued that theirs is a serious business that requires planning from February on to be sure they have enough food for customers. And none of them saw themselves competing on market days with face-painting and performances in a carnival-like atmosphere on the Norwood Common.
So last week, Robbins could hardly contain her delight with her market’s new home, saying vendors will be ready with the freshest of lettuces and other cold crops, as well as other produce like cherry tomatoes, herbs, flowers, strawberries, and rhubarb.
Westwood Council on Aging director Pat Larkin said the pleasure of hosting is all theirs. This will be Westwood’s first farmers market, Larkin said, and the town is thankful to have it. Its location, roughly between the town’s high school and middle school on Nahatan Street, promises healthy, delicious summer dinners for seniors and others as well as a central gathering spot for shoppers, Westwood officials said.
“Westwood welcomes them,’’ Larkin said. “And it’s a great asset for our seniors who want to have fresh, wonderful, moderately priced food.”
Larkin said many of the lower-income seniors will also qualify for a federally-issued $25 coupon to spend at the market, which will operate on Tuesdays from 1 to 6 p.m. through Oct. 30.
Joining Robbins and Silvia as vendors will be Sunshine Farm of Sherborn, the Great Harvest Bread Co. of Newtonville, Jordan Brothers Seafood of Stoughton, and Copicut Farm of Dartmouth, which raises pasture-fed chickens and eggs.
In Norwood, meanwhile, Weineck is waiting for the launch of the new market that will offer produce, eggs, meats, cheeses, wood-fired breads, and honey, among other goods. She said that selectmen opted to move the market to the common to lend an air of vibrancy and activity to the downtown, and that it will happen.
Vendors include the Foxboro Cheese Co. of Foxborough, Fresh Catch of Mansfield and Attleboro, Hearth Bakery of Plymouth, John Crow Farms of Groton, Langwater Farms of North Easton, Oliodemelli of Westport, Silverbrook Farm of Dartmouth, and Web of Life Organic Farm of Carver.
Weineck, members of Friends of Norwood Center, and the Downtown Steering Committee are encouraging nearby merchants to create sidewalk displays on market days, to add to the festive atmosphere, Weineck said.
“We are also planning to put out fliers to get foot traffic from the common uptown,’’ she said. “And Norwood Art Association has also been invited to come out and paint during the market. Isn’t that fun?”
Weineck said the town’s empty storefronts are steadily filling and a number of community meetings to solicit input on how to encourage downtown shopping have been held. The market will only enhance efforts to spotlight growth, she said: “We are very excited about it.”